Lukas Donahue is big on protecting those he cares about.
The 6-foot-3, 290-pound junior from Parkwood has been protecting people for most of his life.
It started with his little sisters, twins Ashley and Emily, 10, and youngest sister, Brooke.
“I always feel protective of them,” Donahue said. “I need to be in their corner. Make them feel like they have someone always going to be there for them. I have to protect and be there for them. That’s how my family is, we’re all really close. It’s always been that way.”
When he’s not playing the role of big brother, he’s protecting the quarterbacks and running backs at La Salle High School.
Donahue is penciled in as a starting tackle this year when the Explorers begin football training camp in a few weeks. And they have a huge building block of their offense returning in Donahue.
But this year, he’ll have a different role.
“Last year, we had this formation where we would use two offensive linemen as tight ends on either side so we could block better,” Donahue said. “So I was playing tight end, but it was a lineman. I was always blocking.
“I didn’t mind, I loved it. Of course I can catch! But I’m a lineman, I love blocking. I love protecting our guys. We had a great offensive line last year, we lost some guys, but they definitely had us ready for this year.”
Last year, the Explorers enjoyed a fantastic season that included knocking of St. Joe’s Prep during the regular season. It snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Hawks, and proved to be a memorable game for every Explorer who played.
It will stay with Donahue forever.
“My most fun game, obviously, was when we beat Prep and Franklin Field,” Donahue said. “It was goosebumps all game, we were so hyped up. We game planned for them for a year. The crowd was packed. Everything you can dream of. It was a huge game. We were on MaxPreps for one of the top five games of the week. Coming out of the tunnel, I got goosebumps. I got them again during warmups. It was such a good environment.
“It’s fun to play Prep, but that was such a special day, because it was Prep at Franklin Field. And we play them this year, too, and it’s at Franklin Field again.”
It was a great experience. But all of his sophomore year was a great experience.
La Salle has a ridiculously difficult schedule. On top of their Catholic League schedule, which includes games against Prep, Archbishop Wood, Roman Catholic and Father Judge, the Explorers play teams like Imhotep Charter, Malvern Prep and Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg). These teams are all among the better teams in the state, so there are no games off for the Explorers. That meant no easing into the varsity lineup for Donahue or any other young La Salle players.
Donahue was happy to be thrown right into the fire.
“That schedule, one of my first games, I was playing against a four-star and five-star combo of defensive ends,” Donahue said of his first game against Imhotep Charter. “I think I did really well. I played a good game, and we played really well as a team. We had to tough it out. For me it’s a lot of nerves before the game, but you get used to it. I love the game.
“You can’t help but to get better when you’re playing our schedule. If you don’t get better, you’re not going to win. But the experience of last year will definitely help me this year.”
It also helps that he’s not resting on his laurels.
After a quick vacation down the shore, Donahue is back working as hard as ever. He spends a lot of time in the weight room and he’s not afraid to hit the track hard. He was doing that in the spring, too, when he threw the shot put and discus for the Explorers track team.
He’s also hitting the camp trail hard.
“I’m working out a lot and I’m trying to get to as many camps as possible,” Donahue said. “I went to Duke University and got a tour of the facility. Had a good camp at Syracuse. I have three or four more camps. Other than that, I’ll be in the weight room or on the field.
“I didn’t really think about recruiting at all until midway through my freshman year. But we play against some of the top teams around. We go to Maryland, we play great teams (in the Inter-Ac). Our league is great. I think all of that will help me in college.”
But he still has some goals to accomplish over the next two years with the Explorers.
La Salle did lose some key players, including some along the offensive line, but Donahue is putting in a lot of work for a reason.
He doesn’t think the Explorers will take a step back this year. In fact, he’s hoping for an even better season than last year.
“This year, I expect we’re going to make a lot of improvements,” Donahue said. “Our coaches are great. We have a new coordinator, he’s going to get us to a higher level. We have high expectations. And we have a lot of good guys. Our offense has a lot of power, our defense is crazy insane. We have guys who can do a lot of good things.”